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My time at The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference

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Just a couple of weeks ago, from February 7th– 9th, The Roger Smith Hotel hosted its 3rd annual Cookbook conference. Held in the midst of a brewing winter storm “Nemo,” with threats of high winds, heavy snow and flight cancellations, only adding to the excitement that already filled the air. There’s always something happening in my NYC! I was ecstatic that I finally had the chance to attend.

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Kitchen Class Wars Panel lead by Linda Civitello, Najmieh Batmanglij, Poopa Dweck and Aylin Tan.

The popularity of the food industry has peaked to new heights and I’ve never been more proud to be a part of a field where we hold the power to improve lives, one bite at a time. Food is life, and the old adage is true: we are what we eat, and how we eat is another story altogether. Our quality of life can be determined by diet. It has an effect on how we feel, both physically and mentally.

There are new discoveries about food and nutrition popping up everyday. Stemming from how local and seasonal our food should be, the question of whether a particular food is organic or not, down to what pasture did that cow graze upon… where’s our food coming from?!

With all these dietary restrictions and sudden influx of food allergies, (I’ve even developed a stupid peanut & walnut allergy out of nowhere) we have grown more concerned with the origins of our comestibles. Haven’t you noticed? It seems that almost everybody is allergic to gluten nowadays. I’m beginning to believe that even I might be developing a gluten intolerance. But maybe I’m paranoid and led by the power of suggestion? I will find out soon enough, though. Why is this happening??

Classic cookbooks for sale.

Classic cookbooks for sale.

As an individual with a new catering start up, and a strong desire to write a cookbook of my own, my intention is to seek every opportunity to learn as much as possible about the world of food, and contribute some of my own ideas. What better way to do this than by rubbing elbows with the experts? I want to surround myself with those who can enlighten me. This is why I was so eager to be a part of The Roger Smith CookBook conference. I must say, it was a learning experience to be savored.

Click here to learn about the different panel discussions:www.cookbookconf.com

During the conference, among many other inspirational folk, I had the chance to meet and speak with Lucinda Scala Quinn, who currently has her own cooking show called “Mad Hungry” on the Hallmark Channel. (Actually, this is the second time I cross paths with her, I saw her at the food blogger’s conference last year.)

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My mid- morning snack of fresh fruit.

The Roger Smith Hotel was like a playground for me as I explored the different panels. I was fascinated by all the topics, especially the discussion on Wartime cookbooks, all written during a time when people had to be creative with recipes due to the rationing of food. Just outside the Starlight room, there was a beautiful display of rare classic cookbooks, many of them out of print. There was also an assortment of pastries, fresh fruit and coffee available for us to nosh on whenever we wished.

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One thing that never occurred to me is to create my own recipe scrapbook, and I was inspired during one of the many interesting discussions. Now I have a use for all those recipes scribbled on coffee/ wine stained cocktail napkins and cutouts from magazines and newspapers.

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Yummy boxed lunches being stacked containing fresh fruit, salad and sandwiches for both the carnivore and the vegetarian.

As a caterer, business woman, blogger, writer, chef, mixologist/ bartender and true lover of all things delicious and nutritious, I fully intend on making my mark in this vast world of food. I’ve always lived to make people happy, and now I want to make them happy & healthy. After all, that’s what this business is all about.

The Roger Smith Cookbook conference is something to be experienced in person. There’s so much to learn. Maybe I will be on one of the panels sharing my expertise in the cookbook conferences of the near future. ;D

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February 25, 2013 · 1:35 am

Pulpo a Feira (Galician Octopus)

Oh sweet creature from the ocean, get inside my belly!

My, my what a handsome octopus! Its been awhile since my last post and I wanted to say that my time away from blogging has not been spent frivolously. I’ve been working on business plans for my new catering start up (stay tuned for the unveiling soon).

I’ve been spending lots of time and having a blast in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes. Particularly tapas style dishes, or meals that entertain. For some reason, I’ve had octopus, aka pulpo on the brain, and I’m no stranger to this mysterious creature, as I grew up with it on the table (my Mama’s famous ensalada de pulpo, yum!). I just want to learn about the different approaches to octopus and adapt some recipes of my own.

Today, I’m inspired by the Spanish tapas dish, “Pulpo a Feira” meaning Galician octopus, served on warm, sliced potatoes, covered in a sauce made from olive oil, sea salt, lemon juice, fresh sliced garlic and paprika. Yes, please! 😉

The other day, I went on a quest to Little Italy on Arthur Avenue to a fish market notorious for super fresh seafood. It was a little pricey, $22 for a 3.5 lb octopus but I knew it would be worth every penny! The superior quality would make a big difference in my recipe. If you ever visit Little Italy, be sure to stop by Cosenza’s fish market, in business since 1918.

In my mind, octopus is not a fish nor is it a meat, but perhaps an integration of both? At least when it comes down to taste. (Actually, if you want to get technical, its a cephalopod, an ocean dweller). You can compare it to the texture of chicken breast with an essence of the sea flavor. If you can get past the purplish- pink color and the alien- like tentacles covered in suctions cups (note: you can always remove them) you are in for a wonderful treat!!

Suction cups, up close and personal.

Octopus submerged in simmering broth, I added a cork because its believed to help tenderize the delicate flesh.

Octopus can be a tricky thing to make. If cooked for too long, it takes on a tough, chewy consistency, no bueno!! If you use too much acid, like in a salad, it might become too fibrous. If boiled in water for too long, it dilutes the natural “sea” flavor. There are methods to render a more tender octopus. Some beat the octopus, because it literally bruises the flesh, but I refuse to treat my food that way. Others say that if you purchase a fresh octopus, freeze it and then thaw it out slowly, which can tenderize it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the two days required to freeze and then to defrost. I also read in a Spanish recipe somewhere that suggested dipping the octopus into boiling water 3 times for up to 10 seconds each time, then simmer for 2 hours. Okay, that works for me. Another method, which seems silly, is to place a cork in the cooking water. It didn’t hurt to try. In the end, the last two options are what I went for. I prayed for some tenderness!

Sauce made of olive oil, sliced garlic, paprika, fresh lemon juice, octopus water.

Ingredients

Pulpo:

  • 1 medium to large fresh octopus, beak removed, and cleaned
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
  • 1 medium onion, halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • wine cork 😉
  • sea salt to taste
**4 Idaho potatoes, peeled, boiled, and cut into 1/2 inch slices**

Sauce:

  • 1/2 c. of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 ladle full of octopus broth or 3/4 cup white wine
  • sea salt to taste

Instructions:

First, I filled a large stock pot with enough water to submerge an entire 3.5 lb octopus, and brought it to a rumbling boil. To the water, I added 4 fresh garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, one medium white onion, cut in half. 1 tbsp of peppercorns, and sea salt to taste. Then with a pair of tongs, I submerged the octopus 3 times for about 10 seconds each time. I covered the pot, and allowed the pulpo to simmer for 2 hours, turning it every so often.

About an hour into cooking, I peeled 4 large Idaho potatoes, cut them into 1/2 inch slices and placed them into salted boiling water until tender.

As for the sauce, which ties the dish together, I took a cup of extra virgin olive oil, about 3 garlic cloves, sliced, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp of paprika and 1 ladle full of octopus water in a medium saucepan over low heat, allowing the flavors to mingle.

To assemble, cut the octopus into half inch chunks, place on top of potato slices, douse it with the garlic- paprika sauce mixture, and serve with a glass of tempranillo. Enjoy.

P. S. The triple dunk and cork method definitely worked, because the octopus was tender and delightful. You can’t go wrong with a little love and top notch quality.

Fuzzy photo of my my finished product, I didn't realize that there was oil on my camera lense.

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November 29, 2012 · 11:33 pm

A room with a view

This blog post will have nothing to do with food today (though I’m thinking about food at the current moment). It does, however, have to do with where pieces of my inspiration originate. During private moments of quiet contemplation when ideas flow freely within my mind. Midtown, in the near, yet far distance at different times throughout a span of more than two years. I’m moving soon, but its okay, in my memory, this view shall forever be ingrained.

Spring Sunset

There’s a thunderstorm brewing!

Summer thunderstorm.

Daytime in the summer.

Cold and crisp night.

Hurricane Irene, as she left NYC.

My pink sky at dusk.

Winter sunset.

Clouds in the evening sky.

Early morning with the moon still shining.

As I walk into the sunset. Same view, at ground level.

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September 5, 2012 · 9:34 am

My Sexy Ceviche

My shrimp ceviche “cooking” in fresh citrus, as I patiently await. 😉

Origins

Ceviche (also spelled cebiche or seviche, depends on origin) is pure summer on a plate, a hot Latino person in dish form, regardless of the season. Peruvian in origin with Arab influences, its an ancient dish that has different variations throughout Latin America, The U.S. and all over the world.

Ceviche has made a huge come back in the food scene, and isn’t leaving anytime soon. Some versions are made with tomato sauce or coconut milk; one similar theme with most recipes is that the star ingredient, either super fresh fish, octopus or shellfish is “cooked” in citrus juice. Lemons are commonly used, but lime, sour orange and grapefruit are also known to be utilized in many different recipe variations. It can be served as an appetizer or as a main course on a bed of white rice, a side of plantains or sweet potatoes.

It makes my taste buds dance!

My mouth salivates when it knows its about to get some sexy ceviche action. Its the pure punch-in-your-face flavor made with a combo of red onion, garlic, red or green pepper, cucumber and in certain cases, spicy chiles. Herbs such as fresh mint, parsley or cilantro and a few dashes of Tabasco, um yes please! 🙂 Yummy seafood marinating in all that freshness, sprinkled with sea salt and coarsely cracked black pepper. Ceviche is a dish that makes me happy.

Freshness is key when it comes to Ceviche, so unless the creature has been pulled directly out of the sea, and even then, its better to lightly cook off any potential threat of bacterial growth. Then you can marinate in the citrus juice along with the rest of the ingredients for about 1- 3 hrs. In some cases, it’s served immediately, but again, its all about the freshness factor. What an invigorating meal! Packed with nutrients, and light in calories. Summer on plate. Pass me a Coronita or a glass of rose wine, and I’m set.

Ladies and Gentlemen, My Ceviche. Enjoy! 😉 xoxoxo

Ingredients

2 lbs of fresh medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 medium red onion (chopped)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

6 large lemons

1 sour orange

1 regular naval orange

2 juicy limes

handful of cilantro (chopped)

1 cucumber  (wax- free, seeds removed, skin intact and chopped)

1 large red pepper (seeds removed, chopped)

1 jalapeno pepper (chopped, remove seeds if you need it less spicy, but extra heat is always welcome, baby!)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1- 3 dashes of Tabasco sauce

sea salt & fresh coarsely cracked black pepper to taste

Prep

In a large hot skillet, add one tbsp of olive oil and lightly cook the shrimp on all sides until pink, immediately remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, add shrimp, chopped cucumber, red pepper, red onion, jalapeno pepper, and minced garlic into the mix and incorporate thoroughly. Squeeze all the citrus fruit juices into mixture, add Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste. Cover with cellophane, and place into the fridge for 1 – 3 hrs. Last, but not least, add the fresh herbs and mix really well. Serve in a chilled martini glass, over a bed of lettuce and garnish with more fresh herbs. Tastes best when paired with a rose or white wine like sauvignon blanc, or a crisp lager or sparkling wine.

Moi, “Food Vixen” relaxing in the Florida Keys, where many of my fond ceviche memories originate. I think of sunshine, beaches and good times.

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July 2, 2012 · 9:30 pm

Spreading Inspiration

The other day, a wonderful thing happened to me in the blogosphere. After having a long and somewhat tiring day, I get home and log into my WordPress account to discover the most welcome message from Dana of  “A Serene Scribe.” I was given The Versatile Blogger Award. Yay! This made my day and put a much needed smile on my face. Thank you. 🙂 I’m thrilled, tickled pink and ever so appreciative.

At Cafe Pick me up in Alphabet City, L.E.S E9th and Avenue A (Check it out)

Blogging, though may appear simple, is not. It takes a lot of time and dedication. It takes lots of research, editing and revisions. One blog post can take hours to write and that depends if you have everything, the photos, notes and material in order. It’s a constant process, and I’m always with a camera and miniature notebook on hand. Yeah, blog writing definitely requires passion, and please let me add that I enjoy every moment of it. The passion behind what I do are all that’s necessary to keep me going.

I realize that my efforts haven’t gone unnoticed and it means the world to me. I’m thrilled to have The Versatile Blogger award! Feelings of inspiration are at an all time high. Thank you again for your support! Xoxoxo.

Writing, food and people are my greatest passions. It’s what makes me happiest and no, this isn’t only a hobby, it’s my life. I love to make people happy. Plus, writing is the best form of therapy for me, so it’s a win/win! In my mind, cooking makes me feel as though I’m slowly improving the world with each delicious bite. To have people around me with whom I can share this joy is what makes life worth living.

7 things you don’t know about me….

  1. Sometimes, when I’m alone or when no one is looking, I eat tuna straight out of the can with fresh lemon juice and hot sauce (one of my only canned indulgences!!)
  2. I like to take refreshing walks in the summer rain without an umbrella.
  3. I make the sign of the cross before meals (my form of grace).
  4. I race to change the channel for those darn ASPCA “Arms of the angel” commercials, they depress me! 😥
  5. I read magazines from back to front (why the heck not?)
  6. I love tattoos… on other people, not on me. 😉
  7. I always make a wish upon the first star I see in the night sky. (I’ve done this for as long as I can remember.)

These are just a few of my fellow blogger folk whom never fail to inspire, keep up the great work!

The Little Kitchen

I met Julie Deily at the Techmunch food bloggers conference in Boston last summer, and I’ve been an avid reader of her blog ever since.  Her site is chocked full of tasty recipes and lots of information about the wonderful world of food. I want to present Julie with The Versatile Blogger award. Thank you for your inspiration. Keep up the great work!

The Scrumptious Pumpkin

I enjoy this blog. Her photos of food are mouth- watering. She has a great selection of tasty recipe ideas for anybody in a food rut. I want to present The Scrumptious Pumpkin with The Versatile Blogger award. Well deserved! Thank you for your inspiration. 😀

CrazyTasty Kosher

This is a blog where non- kosher recipes are converted into a more kosher version. Very well written and inspired. I enjoy the writing style and I want to present CrazyTasty Kosher with The Versatile Blogger award. Thank you for inspiring me. 😀

The Balanced Soul

This blog is very spiritually uplifting and truly inspirational. She covers topics ranging from yoga, meditation, chakras to spiritual food/meals. I follow this blog and I highly recommend it to anybody on the path to enlightenment. I can relate to her material and I want to present her with The Versatile Blogger award. Thank you! 🙂

Love & a six-foot Leash

This blog tugged on my heart strings in the best way! I love Pit bull terriers and they’re treated unfairly because of this misconception people have about them. Pits are one of the sweetest, kindest breeds of dog, and they are great with kids, too! It raises an awareness on this issue and provides foster care for these adorable beings until they’re placed in a loving home. 😥 Thank you for doing what you do! I genuinely support anyone in favor of such a noble cause. I want to present you with The Versatile Blogger award. Thank you so much for your inspiration! 😀

Mouth of the Border/ Midnight Brunch

Emily Cavalier, a lovely lady I came to know some years ago, has been an inspiration to me since day one. I’ve been reading her blog for over three years and I enjoy her musings on exotic cocktails and tasty recipes. She is also the master mind behind the concept of Midnight Brunch which I plan to attend really soon. I want to present her with The Versatile Blogger award. Emily, thank you for inspiring me and keep up the great work!

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June 14, 2012 · 10:29 am

My tiny urban garden

I’m a concrete jungle kind of gal, after all, I do reside in hustling, bustling NYC, and I really enjoy it. Though one day, hopefully, (God willing) sooner than later, I will own a home in the ‘burbs with a huge gourmet kitchen and a garden filled with delicious, lush produce bringing the concept of “local” to as local one can possibly get.

Today is a day that will go down in history for me as a food enthusiast (6/5/12). I planted my very first two crops. No, I don’t own a garden yet, but this is a definite  beginning. I went to my local florist and purchased nutrient rich soil, a few packets of seedling, and two plant pots, all for under seven dollars. I decided to begin with two of the herbs I’m most familiar with, flat leaf parsley and sweet basil. (Currently, my mind is at work with all the recipes I’ll be using them for, ooh the possibilities are endless, but that’s another blog post altogether!)

I already lovingly refer to them as my girls (you must speak kind words to the plants from what I hear, so that they’ll thrive). I am on my way! This is the first time since childhood I’ve ever planted anything, so I hope it goes well. Why not? I followed the directions to the “T” (whatever that expression means). 😉

A sun- drenched window sill will be the perfect growing environment for my girls.

The window sill in the hallway (drenched with lots of sunlight) will be my garden for now and as I’ve already stated, it’s just the beginning. Soon there will be tomatoes, banana peppers, squash, I have a long list! I will update you on their progress.  I look forward to my new crops, so exciting! I feel as though I’m getting really personal with my food. I’m getting down and dirty, literally!

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June 6, 2012 · 11:21 am

Chinatown Delicacies

The other day I set out into the afternoon sun on a quest for the perfect dinner ingredients. I didn’t have a recipe in mind, all I knew was that I NEEDED to finally satiate this enormous seafood craving I’ve had for over a week.

When I arrived at my local neighborhood market, I felt uninspired as I browsed the all too familiar aisles. There is a section especially dedicated to fresh fish, but my choices were limited and everything seemed so pricey. I was in a food rut and because this market is my usual spot, a change was definitely in order. So on a whim, I jumped on the next train headed to Chinatown off Main Street in Flushing, Queens. I knew that as far as seafood is concerned, they would have it all, and then some.

The best thing about New York City living is that almost every country is accessible, all you need to do is hop on the nearest train, and the world is at your feet. It’s thrilling to know that different cultures, languages and most importantly, food are so close to me. I want to learn about all of it. I love NY!

Here are a few photos from my journey into Chinatown:

Please note, most of these photos are of rare Chinese delicacies available for purchase. In the end, I settled for fresh shrimp, mussels and Enoki mushrooms. 😉

NYC, that magical place where you can hop on a train and travel the world.

Exiting the subway onto Main Street

Farmer fresh fruit

The farmer’s market in Chinatown.

Some fish are so fresh, they are taken straight from the tank.

Alive, ready and waiting to be consumed.

Fish mongers at work.

Wall to wall fish.

Duck tongue. I wouldn’t make this myself, but I would be willing to try it, maybe…

Real “pig tails”

Silky Chicken. Dark blue/ black skin. I am very curious about it.

Beef tripe. I eat this in a delicious Latin recipe called “Mondongo.”

Um…. yeah, snakes. Very much alive and slithering around on top of each other. Fresh snake for dinner? (Yuck)

Dehydrated seahorses

This looks like a lizard of some kind, with wings!

Starfish.

Fresh shrimp, and  I mean fresh. They were taken straight out of a tank.

Finally, part of my seafood dinner.

As I stated earlier, I finally opted for fresh mussels and shrimp for dinner that evening, yeah I could’ve found these ingredients at my local market, but I must say that this was well worth the trip. The seafood was fresh and inexpensive plus I learned about the Chinese food scene, where nothing goes to waste. Their cuisine goes much deeper than what I see on a Chinese- American take out menu.

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May 24, 2012 · 2:25 pm